Show & Prove
Interview: Georgette Cline
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Winter 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands in December.
Proclaiming to be the “chosen one” can be blasphemous when the talk doesn’t match the merit, but when Sexyy Red does it, there’s no denying her declaration. Heard on her viral holla-at-me anthem, “SkeeYee,” the lyrics give credence to how her real, raunchy and sex positive identity has dominated all 2023.
The 25-year-old rapper’s Tay Keith-produced breakthrough hit “Pound Town” getting a Nicki Minaj remix, cosigns from many hip-hop magnates including Drake, Travis Scott and Tyler, The Creator, plus performing on Drizzy’s It’s All a Blur Tour, the New York Jets warming up to “SkeeYee,” topping the inaugural TikTok Billboard top 50 chart and hitting the 2023 BET Hip Hop Awards stage are just a few of the endless moments that prove Sexyy Red is the rawest newcomer in and out of town.
“Whenever I do some s**t, I be shocked,” the new rap star admits. “I be like, Damn, so y’all really f**k with me? Because I be thinking I’m just on some me s**t, just doing me. But then once I see how everybody reacting to it, I’m like, I guess I’m spectacular or something.”
Before she was thuggin’ with her rounds as Sexyy Red, Janae Wherry grew up on the Northside of St. Louis, about 20 minutes from the famed Gateway Arch. As a kid, she and her two sisters were fed a healthy rappetite of Gucci Mane songs by their mother. Sexyy also leaned into the sounds of Project Pat, Webbie and Lil Boosie coming up.
Rapping wasn’t the goal early on; getting money was. Sexyy Red’s hustler’s spirit motivated her to braid hair for cash in high school. The entrepreneur stacked her paper as word got around she did the best styles. School is where she also got the nickname Red for her fiery hair color, and her creativity thrived thanks to art class. Later in life, she drew the designs for the Big Sexyy and Hello Kitty chains she often wears. “My friends used to be like, ‘You need to be a rapper. You already got the money, you got the look,’” Sexyy recalls.
Her flashy appearance also helped garner attention on her Facebook page, where a loyal following began. The Sexyy Red machine was forming like Voltron before she even realized it. By 18, the high school graduate got a job at a call center to save up enough money to get her own apartment, where she eventually lived with her boyfriend. His cheating behavior—he’s the same man she affectionately refers to as “baby daddy” in her rhymes and across social media—inspired her to make a freestyle dissing him in 2018. Surprisingly, Sexyy’s man praised her efforts and encouraged her to rap for friends. The randy rhymes she’s become synonymous with were born.
A racy approach to FBG Duck’s “Slide” beat was the first song she dropped on YouTube that same year. “A Thousand Jugs,” a bullet-spraying rework of singer Vanessa Carlton’s classic “A Thousand Miles,” followed. Clad in a tennis skirt and holding a chopper, Sexyy Red struts down a suburban street while delivering playful bars and taking aim at her opps.
Regular studio sessions became the norm and she made more tracks over the next few years. She used social media to market her music by twerking in videos to the sounds of her own voice.
“Everybody would keep writing, ‘Send this song, send this song,’” Sexyy Red remembers of her early Instagram posts showcasing her rhymes. “So, I just was sending it to them. The that’s when people start trying to book me.”
Performing locally took a backseat in 2020, though, due to the birth of her son. With money as the motive, a rap career wasn’t far from Sexyy Red’s mind. A year later, the work she already put in paid off. A&R rep Vladimir “Sunny” Laurent of Miami-based label Rebel Music signed her after hearing old songs like 2018’s “Free Smoke.” Ghetto Superstar, her first project with the label, arrived at the end of 2021. Sexyy acknowledges it wasn’t her best work. “Everybody wasn’t paying to tune in to my tape, and they didn’t,” the heavily tattooed artist shares. “It was cool, but yeah, it could have been better.”
She set out to improve with her subsequent releases throughout 2022, including “Born by the River” featuring Sukihana” and “Throwin It.” But it was the freaky hit “Pound Town,” released at the top of 2023, that exceeded expectations. The polarizing song caused Sexyy to go viral for the lewd lines: “My coochie pink, my bootyhole brown.” It also brought in over 19 million Spotify streams and 23 million YouTube views. The remix with Nicki Minaj has locked in over 34 million Spotify streams and the No. 66 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
“When Sexyy Red first came, the shock was so crazy that people didn’t know how to take it,” says boardsmith Tay Keith, who put his own money up to help their collab soar. “It’s just so clear to everybody that she’s really a star. She set the standards and the mold for female artists so differently nowadays.”
Since then, Sexyy’s lived up to the title of Hood Hottest Princess, the name of her second mixtape, which came out in June. The success of the rhymer’s second smash hit, “SkeeYee” (No. 62 on the Billboard Hot 100), means she’s no one-hit wonder, plus performances alongside Travis Scott and Drake this past summer support the notion she’s your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Newer tracks like the September release of “Shake Yo Dreads” are heating up. The self-proclaimed Ghetto Fabulous Hoochie even landed a feature on Drizzy’s “Rich Baby Daddy” with SZA, from his For All the Dogs album. The song landed at the No. 11 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in October. She’s also been on a 30-date headlining tour as well.
Sexyy Red’s fame hasn’t come without controversy. Besides the contention caused by bawdy behavior and salacious subject matter, her sex tape leaked in October. However, she’s not letting that cloud her vision. She just released the deluxe version of her Hood Hottest Princess tape, which features the new track “Free My N***a.” A yet-to-be titled debut album is coming in early 2024, and she has the impending birth of her second child to focus on.
While the critics may have something to say, Sexyy Red is never catering to them. “I’m really representing for the people, for the little girls that’s just like me,” she maintains. “This something I never thought would hap- pen. I just remember being on a block or something. I just still can’t believe what I’m doing right now.”
Read Sexyy Red’s interview in the Winter 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on newsstands now. The new issue also includes the cover story with Latto and conversations with Killer Mike, Flo Milli, DD Osama, Maiya The Don, Monaleo, Mello Buckzz, BigXthaPlug, Scar Lip, plus more. Additionally, there’s an exclusive interview with Fetty Wap, Quality Control Music’s Coach K and P discuss 10 years into the label’s growth, and in-depth stories on the popularity of sampling in hip-hop in 2023, the state of hip-hop touring and the best moments of hip-hop’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration.